Drivers warned as illegal phone use soars by 'shocking' 24pc in past year
Gardaí are to mount the biggest Easter road safety campaign in recent years with traffic fatalities now an alarming 11pc up on 2018.
There has also been a startling 24pc hike in the number of drivers caught using their mobile phone while behind the wheel, with 5,000 motorists detected in January and February. Transport Minister Shane Ross described the statistic as "shocking".
A total of 50 people have died on Irish roads since January 1, compared to 45 over the same period in 2018, an increase of 11pc.
Gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) launched the Easter bank holiday weekend road safety campaign yesterday with the focus on speeding and motorists who still insist on their phones while driving.
The campaign is the biggest test of the year so far for gardaí, with an estimated two million people taking to the roads for festive journeys. Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan stressed they will have a highly visible enforcement presence over the coming days.
This will be bolstered by a significant deployment of unmarked patrol vehicles - particularly aimed to detecting motorists using mobile phones while behind the wheel.
RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock has urged motorists to adhere to the rules of the road.
"Using your mobile phone while driving makes you four times more likely to crash.
"Despite this, rational, intelligent people continue to text, make phone calls and check their social media accounts," she said.
Ms Murdock pointed out that in the three years to March 2019, a total of 81,199 penalty point notices were issued for using a mobile phone while driving.
"Taking a call, sending a text or browsing while driving could kill you or some other innocent road user," she warned.
Reinforcing the campaign message, Assistant Commissioner Sheahan said that any interaction with a mobile phone while at the wheel was "killer behaviour".
"Alarmingly we have seen a 24pc increase in drivers detected holding a mobile phone in 2019 compared to 2018," he said.